When working with clients who are separating or divorcing, I find it helpful to approach it as a three stage process.
1. Uncertainty and making the decision about whether to continue the marriage or to end it.
2. The transition period between feeling married and feeling single.
3. Beginning the new phase in your life.
Here is my key piece of advice for each of these stages.
Stage 1. Stay in the uncertainty for as long as you need. Only make the choice when it feels obvious. I’m often asked what to do when your heart says one thing, but your head says another. My advice is to wait until your heart and head are in agreement.
Stage 2. When it comes to friends and family, be self centred. You don’t need to explain your decision or keep other people happy. Its highly likely that friends and family will have emotionally charged responses. Keep conversations brief if you need to. If someone is asking more questions than you want to answer, don’t be afraid to say, ‘ I’m not going to discuss that.’ Don’t expect those close to you to respond in a way that suits you; they’ll be going through their own process just as much as you are. Have no expectations of them; but treat yourself well.
Find conversations with people who are in a position to be supportive. These may be people who you don’t know so well. It may sound counter-intuitive but because they are less emotionally invested in you, they’ll find it easier to support you.
Stage 3. Don’t delay having fun. Many people feel either bitterness (if they’ve been left) or guilt (if they’ve done the leaving). Both these emotions are corrosive. They shrivel a person, and are the building blocks of misery. The trouble is that divorcees often think they need to wait till they get over the divorce before they start to really live again. The heart does not work in that linear way. It doesn’t line up emotions and move through them in a tidy sequence. The heart is messy, convoluted and non-logical. Deal with it. Start having fun now. Its in the having fun that the grief will dissipate.
Finally – and this applies to the whole process – don’t worry about what other people think.